Green Thumbs Up!

Gardening in the City

One of my favorite parts of summer in West Michigan is the farmer’s market. Many inspirations for cooking ideas are generated with just a stroll through the market. The best part about the farmer’s market is the seasonal change. At the beginning of the season in Michigan, options are limited and a lot of the produce is from out of state. Most of the vendors don’t set up until it gets warmer. As the season progresses, the prime vendors show up fill their displays with a medley of colors. Garlic scapes are the popular item this time of year. Later in the summer, the bell peppers and hot peppers start showing up. That’s when it’s time to get excited to make salsa!

Living in the city, going to the farmer’s market is one way for you to get your hands on fresh picked vegetables. The problem for me is the markets are only open a couple days a week. Saturdays are the only day I can go. How do I get fresh veggies throughout the week without overloading at the farmer’s market? One way to achieve that is by planting your own garden.

What?!? Who has time to tend a garden? Will it fit in my small yard? How do I even get started? Isn’t it hard? It’s quite the contrary. If a guy like me, who has never attempted to build a garden in any yard, can do it, it’s definitely possible. It starts with a vision.

To give you an example, my yard is 44′ wide and 90′ deep. It may seem plenty big enough to plant a garden. It is. Keep in mind that there’s an 1100 sq. ft. house in the middle of that property and a driveway that takes up any possibility of having a side yard. With such a small yard, there’s always a delicate balance. Add in a couple of dogs and the yard gets smaller, as the dogs require room to run. If you think by now that there’s no way you can fit a garden in that small amount of space, you’d be surprised.

Even the neighbor’s dog wants to see the action.

Remember that delicate balance mentioned earlier? This is where we learn to incorporate that balance. Evaluate your property. Is there room on the side of the house? What about the corners of your yard? Is there anything in the way such as trees or shrubbery, or is it grass and dirt to the corner of the property? If you have a fenced-in yard, there’s even more space than you think.

Fences are a blessing in a small garden. Take advantage of the vertical space they give you. The internet is full of thousands of ideas for DIY hanging herb gardens and other styles of vertical gardens. Research what may best suit your yard. Another way to get ideas is to take pictures of the area in your backyard that you intend to turn into your garden. Stop in at the local hardware store and talk to people in their gardening sections. Show them your pictures and see what they have to help you in your design.

It’s time to put together my garden. My small city lot has room in the back corner between the shed and the fence. This location is ideal for me because it is tucked away in the corner and does not impede my yard or the running room for the dogs. More importantly with the dogs is keeping them out of the garden. A good bit of fencing will do the trick.

Who wants to look at a boring garden? Give your garden a theme! For my garden, I chose to a play on Aesop’s Fable, “The Hare and the Tortoise.” All the forest creatures gathered in the garden, instead of the forest, to watch the two race.

Since there isn’t a lot of room in the yard, I decided that my first ever garden should be set up as a salsa garden. Basically, the garden consists of roma tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, bell peppers, and cilantro. These are some, but not all of the ingredients to make my homemade salsa, which is a staple condiment in my household.

So… if you decide to build a garden in the city, build it in a way that suits your eating habits. Learn how to not only build a garden , but to also maintain it. Building the garden is just the beginning. If you take care of your garden, it will surely pay you back with healthy fruits and vegetables for as long as the growing season allows.

By Aaron Redding

Looking at the world through other people's eyes is a great approach not only to life, but to food as well. My name is Aaron. My goal is to bring new food ideas that differ from the norm and share them with you. My past experiences have brought me around the world. These experiences have shaped the way I eat as well as how I cook. Come join me on my culinary journey!

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